Returning to the Fundamentals of Writing

writingIn Stephen King’s book, On Writing; A Memoir of the Craft, he wrote, “… good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) and then filling the third level of your toolbox with the right instruments.” I don’t know anyone who would disagree with Mr. King. I read a lot of blogs. I have read some amazing blogs, I have read some blogs that appear as if the blogger had read another blogger’s blog, changed the words around (which by the way is as obvious as it is when you go from riding on a smooth surface to a surface filled with crater-sized holes), and if the blogger did not intentionally take from another blog, but coincidently chose the same topic to blog about – I have to be honest here, there is no comparison. Read as many writer’s blogs as you can, but don’t attempt to blog about the same topic unless you are on par with the blogger that has already blogged about the topic, and you have something more to give your readers. Blogging will help you grow as a writer, but start where you are.

Steven King also wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” As a writer, I am not going to limit myself to books, I’m also going to read other writer’s blogs. As bad as it sounds, how else are you going to measure yourself against another writer, regardless of whether you are blogging or writing a book? If you aren’t writing on the same level as the bloggers and authors you follow, do not attempt to write about the same complexities of writing – not until you can stand toe-to-toe with the bloggers and authors that write about these topics. Before I move on to the crux of this blog, I want to note that besides comparing your writing ability to other writers when you read other writer’s work, you also learn different styles of writing. If you are reading the other blogs to learn the complexities of writing, make sure you have mastered the fundamentals of writing first; otherwise, you are wasting your time and will be spinning your wheels as a writer.

What are the fundamentals of writing? The fundamentals of writing are vocabulary, grammar and the elements of style. All of which I intend to address individually in future blogs. Some may laugh and find this elementary. If you’re laughing, congratulations – you have mastered the fundamentals of writing and this blog is not for you. The writing industry is not what it once was before Indie writing. Indie writing has made it possible for anyone to write a book. Here’s the painful truth, and if you’ve read Stephen King’s book, you know what I’m going to say. “Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers.” The sad truth is that I believe ‘lots’ would be ‘some’ if more writers had mastered the fundamentals of writing before rushing off and publishing an Indie book.

I read an Indie book a few months back, and while the story was a terrific story, it lacked many of the basic fundamentals of writing, and as far as I’m concerned the writer may as well have received the Scarlet Letter “S” when the book was published. It’s a mark against the author. I must have OCD when it comes to reading because I edit everything I read, and I do mean everything. I edit my text messages, my FB posts, you name it – I edit it. I don’t get everything right all the time, none of us do, but when you can’t read a book without stumbling over a sentence that does not make sense because of a word that is missing or out of place, along with a number of other errors, that’s not good writing. In this particular book I had my highlighter out and began highlighting error after error; however, before I reached the middle of the book I forced myself to try to overlook the obvious errors just so I could finish the book. What bothered me the most about all the errors in the book is that the Indie author credited several persons for editing the book. I have to seriously question their credentials as editors.

An editor’s job is not to write your book. I returned more submissions than I can recall throughout my years of service, and I did so because whether it was an evaluation, a fitness report, an article, a speech, etc., I refused to write someone else’s assignment. I had been there and done that. It was my responsibility to edit the submissions, mark them up with my red pen and send them back to the originator for a rewrite. There were times that regardless of how many times I sent something back, it was just as bad, if not worse when it was returned to me, and due to deadlines, I had no choice but to rewrite someone else’s assignment because they were just bad writers. I was not going to submit bad writing to my superiors and have it reflect on me. Yes, I may have done some rewrites, but I learned and those bad writers deadlines were moved up for future submissions.

A writer’s job is to write and edit, and an editor’s job is to edit. The editing process begins with the writer. Anyone that has been writing for any length of time knows that as a writer, the editing process can go on forever. As a writer, every time you read your work, there’s always something to change, delete, correct and make better. There’s no excuse for a writer to submit their work for editing if they have not already edited their own work several times.

I am working on not being so verbose, so I am going to end this blog post, but in my future blog posts, I intend to address the fundamentals of writing one by one. It never hurts to go back and review the basics. I expect to get something out of reviewing the fundamentals of writing, and it is my hope that you do too. Until next time – edit, edit, edit.

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